How to Use Art to Free Your Anxious Heart

We all bear difficult times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed. My guest, Kristin Blankenship, shares her experience and 4 tips we can employ to heal our anxious hearts.

Using Art to Free an Anxious Heart

It is important to do the work that leads to our renewal, clarity and inspiration and then remember to taste it, experience it and let it flow.  Linda Saccoccio

Let Your Light Shine
Let Your Light Shine

No one could have prepared me for the journey my heart would travel upon becoming a mom over 9 years ago.  A journey bursting with love for my long-awaited child, a little boy entering the world in hushed awe with wide-open eyes – windows to an old soul.  And, at the same time, a journey fraught with the uneasiness over the feeling that my beautiful boy did not seem comfortable outside the womb.  With the arrival of a little sister less than two years later, came frequent and lengthy meltdowns, nightly sleep difficulties, and the onset of rigid, repetitive behaviors.  My husband and I operated in survival mode for days on end.

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Writer, Elizabeth Stone, once described having children as  “forever having your heart go walking around outside your body.” My boy and I shared the same anxious heart as I began searching for answers from pediatricians, child psychologists, behavior and occupational therapists.  At the age of 2 ½, my sweet boy was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  And while this journey has been difficult at times, especially in those early years, it has also served as a training ground for strength, perseverance, joy and celebration as we experience God’s love through the hands and hearts of those who travel along beside us.

Being the parent of a special needs child often means chronic sleep deprivation and countless hours researching in the desperate effort to understand and make the best decisions for early intervention.  It is easy to become so focused on these aspects, that we lose our true selves somewhere in the mad dash to special schools and multiple therapies all over (and out of) town.  Even play with a special needs child requires work!  It is no wonder that when we do finagle some quiet-time for ourselves, we sit with grieving hearts, trying to remember who we are beyond the Special Needs Mom title.

Spread Joy
Spread Joy

For me, art has played an integral role in healing my own worn-out, anxious heart.  Integrating art and creativity into our daily lives fosters the opportunity to reconnect with our own inner child, that child of God who runs and laughs and feels joy spontaneously.  When we get out of our own heads and back in touch with our true essence, we are better able to connect with God, the Source for inspiration and energy that we so desperately need.  Yes, our children need our intellect.  They need us to be their advocates. Even more, they need our hearts and the joy that God has placed inside them.  Joy that offers healing for ourselves and our children.

So, how can you infuse art into your daily life?  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Grab the crayons and draw or write with your non-dominant hand.  Studies indicate that this practice promotes access to the right-side of the brain which houses functions such as feeling, intuition, creativity, and inner wisdom and spirituality.

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  • Engage your body in joyful movement.  Try dancing to upbeat music while doing chores, such as cleaning the bathroom.

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  • Create a sculpture with air-dry clay or play-dough.  The act of sculpting and kneading releases stress and reminds us of how God created and molded us in his very own image.

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  • Cut-out magazine pictures that “speak” to you and make a collage. Figure-out ways to incorporate one or more of these ideas into the weeks ahead.VisionCollage

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Allow the creativity to flow and you just might discover a deep well of abundance. Abundance that offers sustenance for a tired heart.

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Stu&MeKristin Blankenship is the wife to her husband of 19 years and the mother of  two school-age children, ages 7 and 9. Before having children, she spent the majority of her adult career working in the public schools as an elementary school teacher and guidance counselor. More recently, Kristin ran with the desire to “unleash her inner artist,” and began working with creative coach, Amy Barr.  Through this process, she discovered healing and a renewed joy for life. Currently, Kristin resides in Midlothian, Virginia where she writes of her faith and motherhood at her blog, The Blue Mug, and creates mixed-media art, celebrating the simple beauty of life.

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4 Choices That Improve Your Perseverance

“We know that … perseverance [produces] character; and character, hope.” —Romans 5:3-4

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Our character is what gains others’ trust. Perseverance is the mettle of our character. But persevering can be harsh.

It doesn’t have to be. Persevering is hard work, but through our choices we can embrace it.

4 Choices That Improve Your Perseverance

sweep.jpg1. Choose to do what you love. My daughter-in-law emailed me that my almost 3-year-old grandson helped Daddy shovel snow. He helped for 1½ hours and didn’t want to stop.

I know children. I know they beg to help with a project and after ten minutes find ways to slink away. So I asked my husband what made our grandson shovel snow with Daddy for 1½ hours. John said, “Because he loves it.”

Immediately, I recalled my grandson finding the Swiffer Sweeper in our pantry and running it over our hardwood floors for long periods. At the LEGO KidsFest Virginia, he was the only child getting in line over and over to roll the rug sweeper over spilled LEGOs.

Even an almost 3-year-old can persevere at what he loves to do.

snail-worker.jpg2. Choose to do what you believe in. During my actuarial career, my director gave me free reign to implement an idea I had (2 Ways You Know Your Activity Is a Success). Then our division reorganized. One of my staff and I reported to a different director. The new director promised the idea was a priority; however, he constantly pulled us to other projects. I believed the idea was the right thing to do for the company. I worked on the project whenever I could and had resources available, which wasn’t often.

After one year, another reorganization returned me to my prior director. She gave me four people to make my idea happen. But then we received resistance from another division vital to the project’s success. Because I believed in the idea, I designed a way to gain their trust that helped them. After a year, we were up and running. The project improved our company’s position. After I retired, the director of the resisting area offered me a consultant position to implement the idea at a sister company. I chose to write stories and novels.

I persevered because I believed the idea was right for the company.

 

MP9001749473. Choose to do what challenges you. In a college math class, the professor assigned one problem for homework. My three roommates worked on the problem for a short time and left for dinner. Not me. I knew I could figure it out.

It was one of those marbles problems. I worked on it all evening until my roommates killed the lights. I reluctantly climbed into my top bunk bed. My mind kept working the problem. Finally, I crawled down from bed, grabbed the papers with my scrawled attempts, and went into the hall. At some wee hour, it dawned on me the solution wasn’t a single answer but a set of cases.

When the professor asked who’d solved the problem, two raised our hands. I waved mine so enthusiastically, he chose me to put it up on the blackboard.

I persevered (and became a math major) because I wanted the challenge.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Choose what you’re called to do. For me, I believe God has called me into relationship with Him and to write. I’ve labored at writing off and on for forty years. Twelve years ago through much prayer, I wrote and self-published two books (5 Reasons I Don’t Care I Lost Money Self-publishing).

Since I signed with an agent, I’ve written five novels. I’ve received my share of rejection letters. I’ve even asked God to remove my desire to write if it wasn’t what He’d have me do. Giving up writing doesn’t seem an option. Recently, I signed a contract for the fifth book I completed.

I persevered because writing is what God laid on my heart.

What helps you persevere in what you do?

 

4 Crucial Elements That Make Your Audience Talk Up Your Creative Work

“The public as a whole is composed of various groups, whose cry to us writers is: ‘Comfort me.’ ‘Amuse me.’ ‘Touch me.’ ‘Make me dream.’ ‘Make me laugh.’ ‘Make me shudder.’ ‘Make me weep.’ ‘Make me think.’” —Guy de Maupassant

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We work on a painting, presentation, novel, song, dance, play, or Bible lecture and hope our audiences will talk it up.

Our works will stay in the minds of our audiences if we recognize audiences need intangibles to imbed artistic works in their memories.

People will enjoy our works long after they’ve put down the books, turned off the iPods or left the galleries, conference rooms, or theaters if our works evoke:

  • Images
  • Emotions
  • Stories
  • Ah-Has

Why Evoke Images?

Kyle Buchanan and Dean Roller say in their e-book, How to Memorize Bible Verses, “Your memory doesn’t like rote learning and repetition, it likes to see things.”

id-100135344.jpgPeople want to visualize as they experience. Even paintings evoke images other than those on canvas. When I saw a painting of a field of sunflowers, the image of the sunflower patch I passed on my way home from work everyday in the summers came to mind.

Songs evoke images through lyrics and what went on in our lives when the songs were popular. Recently I attended My Book Therapy’s Deep Thinkers Retreat. Susan May Warren invited us to listen to parts of songs and note what images and emotions they aroused. The exercise showed the importance of creating images for our readers.

People like to recall the rich images creative works deposit in their memory banks.

Why Evoke Emotions?

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At the Deep Thinkers Retreat, we learned techniques to evoke readers’ emotional responses to our characters. To make our novels memorable, we had to draw our readers into the characters’ lives. Recalling our own past emotions in similar situations helped us show our characters’ emotional reactions.

During the retreat breaks and meals, the latest episode of Downton Abbey dominated conversations. A character had died. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought, by the angry and mournful emotions voiced, some beloved actor had passed. Viewers cared.

A presenter wants his audience to care about his call to action. In the book, Resonate, Nancy Durate advocates emotional appeal in presentations along with ethical and logical appeals. She says, “Involving the audience emotionally helps them form a relationship with you and your message.”

People look for reasons to care enough to talk up creative works.

Why Evoke Stories?

 mp900405206.jpgWhen I look at a painting or a photo in a gallery, I see a snapshot. I want to know what happened and what happens next. What’s the story behind the photo of the ballerina? Was she jilted earlier? Is she planning revenge? Was she cut from the ballet? Will she give up her dream and return to her husband and five children?

Song rhythms and lyrics arouse new and past stories. Novels do the same. When I read a novel, my mind scurries ahead to finish the story with what I know so far. I’m delighted when the novel surprises me with a gotcha or replaces my expectations with something far more interesting.

People discuss creative works whose interesting scraps or snapshots turn on their live-in storytellers to fill in the gaps.

Why Evoke Ah-has?

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Most people love to glean a new truth from a poignant play, a hilarious book, or a country song’s title. It’s like opening door number three and our hearts leap at the sight of the prize. Readers of mysteries delight in the sudden realization of who dunnit.

We enjoy a new insight to share at lunch. To guide our lives.

People talk up creative works that turn on their light bulbs.

What did you imagine when you first saw the picture of the ballerina?